In Channel 4's new four-part drama series The Fear, Peter Mullan stars as crime boss turned entrepreneur Richie Beckett, trying to fight off both an attack on his commercial interests and a mind that seems to be disintegrating. Unbeknown to him, he has a very aggressive form of Alzheimer's. As Richie's dark past bleeds into the present, unresolved traumas that echo the chaos threaten to engulf him.
Here, Mullan reveals a little more about the drama.
Tell us about Richie...
Well, Richie sees himself as a business man, so called, but he is a gangster in reality, which I suppose some business men are, at least in my book anyway.
He's recently realised that his behaviour is quite aberrant and through the course of the series he discovers he has Alzheimer's - a very aggressive form of it which takes hold in a concentrated period of time. It's extreme.
In the meantime, there is another group of gangsters who have come over from Albania to try and take over his patch. And his family have to, on the one hand cope with his increasingly erratic behaviour, but also disguise it at the same time because they don't want it known to the wider gangster community that he's no longer in charge of his faculties.
Describe the effects on his relationship with his wife and sons?
He becomes more aggressive, more emotional and in a weird way, paradoxically, more open, more vulnerable than he's ever been before. And so in some respects it brings the family closer together - but obviously in other respects it rips them apart because his nature is to fight things. So he's fighting - in this case - the unfightable. So instead of coping and finding the support he needs to get through these things, his behaviour becomes more and more violent and unpredictable. That obviously pushes the family away.
How does The Fear differ from other gangster dramas?
The thing that attracted me to it was the combination of the two aspects - a gangster with Alzheimer's is interesting, to me. A gangster TV series, I'm not interested in.
What grabbed me about it was that someone with a very dark past and a very shady present should have to come to terms with a disease that has claimed the lives of millions and caused so many families to suffer. I have lost a lot of my family to Alzheimer's. So the idea that he is a guy that quite rightly you should not - nor ever should - sympathise with, but the nature of the illness demands a certain degree of empathy - not sympathy - empathy, to understand that even bad people get diseases. And as far as I'm concerned he's been a pretty bad boy to say the least. His previous actions, well you would be more than justified in saying he's not a pleasant human being. So now he's been diagnosed, his false persona becomes unravelled and you get to see who he is and what is at the heart of him.
Will audiences pity Richie?
I would hope empathise - I don't think you would pity him. He's just too unpleasant to pity, but yeah there are certain moments when I guess you may not dislike him as much. But I certainly wouldn't sympathise with him. I mean, you're looking at a guy who has been running a drug empire for years, he has killed people to get to where he is and he wouldn't think twice - in the past - about the number of lives he has destroyed through the so-called illegal product that he sells. But no I hope they wouldn't pity him because that would lead to sympathy and let him off the hook.
The Fear is transmitting on Channel 4 over four consecutive nights from Monday 3rd December at 10pm on Channel 4.